NGOs Win FPSO North Sea Producer Shipbreaking Case
On November 14, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh declared the import, beaching and breaking of the FPSO North Sea Producer to be illegal. The judgment was issued in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Shipbreaking Platform member organization Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA).
The Court also passed several directions upon the government to regulate the sector in line with earlier rulings. In August 2017, the Bangladesh Court had issued an injunction on the ongoing breaking of the North Sea Producer based on the detection of radiation levels higher than permitted. It has now directed national agencies to monitor the breaking of what is left of the FPSO without any involvement of Janata Steel, the yard that had beached the vessel in 2016. The Department of Environment has also been directed to claim compensation from the yard for having violated national environmental rules.
“The judgment is important in that it has expressly called the import, beaching and breaking permits illegal, and for the first time a breaker has been put off the breaking operation and the government has been given the steering,” states Rizwana Hasan, Supreme Court lawyer and director of BELA.
The Court directed authorities to:
i) subject cash buyers and agents to stricter scrutiny, including a detailed recording of their particulars, and to hold them accountable to the strictest sanctions;
ii) regulate the import of vessels registered under “last voyage” gray or black-listed flags which are particularly popular with cash buyers, and;
iii) ensure that no vessel is imported without proper verifiable pre-cleaning certificates and declarations of in-built hazardous wastes, and/or by yards that do not fully comply with the requirements for obtaining an Environmental Clearance.
The export of the vessel from the U.K. is still being investigated by U.K. environmental agency DEFRA, says the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. The North Sea Producer was allowed to leave the U.K. in 2016 based on claims that it would be further operationally used, the Platform says.
Back in 2016, Maersk expressed regret that the ship it sold to cash buyer GMS had been taken to a shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh, after Danish media showed workers using precarious rope ladders to climb the hull.
Maersk has stated:
• The FPSO North Sea Producer operated in the U.K. North Sea from 1997–2015 and was owned by the North Sea Production Company Limited (NSPC), an independent British company owned 50/50 by Maersk and Odebrecht, a Brazilian company.
• Following contract termination, the North Sea Producer was sold and transferred to a buyer in April 2016 on an "as is, where is" basis, whereby the buyer took over operational and legal responsibility for the unit.
• In August 2016, Maersk was made aware of the fact that the North Sea Producer had been sent to a recycling yard in Bangladesh, where conditions do not meet the requirements of the Hong Kong Convention. Maersk had contractually bound the buyer to the Hong Kong Convention but the buyer chose to violate the contract.
• An internal legal study has concluded that neither Maersk nor NSPC can prevent the recycling from taking place or impose a financial legal claim against the buyer.
• The Maersk Group has subsequently broken all commercial relations with the buyer.
In December 2018, A.P. Moller - Maersk joined the Ship Recycling Transparency Initiative - designed to make responsible ship recycling the norm through transparency and accountability.